KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainians turned off domestic appliances, wrapped themselves in blankets to keep warm and remained defiant on Thursday as they faced the first nationwide electricity outages of the war against Russia.
In response to requests by the president and government, towns and cities restricted power supplies and limited electricity use so that energy companies could repair power facilities hit by a wave of Russian air strikes.
Cities including the capital Kyiv and Kharkiv in the northeast announced curbs on the use of electric-powered public transport such as trolleybuses and reduced the frequency of underground trains as winter looms.
“We switched off all electric appliances at home. This must be treated very seriously. So far we have not used the heater,” Lyudmila, a 75-year-old Kyiv resident, told Reuters television.
“We bought new duvets, pillows, we are preparing. I do not know what else to do. I do not think we can buy a generator. I have no idea how we will keep ourselves warm.”
She said she was listening to tips on television about how to keep warm, and living in hope.
“We bought candles, we hope to buy fuel tablets. I hope everything will be fine,” she said.
Sixty-year-old Olga said at a Kyiv bus stop that she was ready to travel on foot if public transport was suspended because of the efforts to conserve energy.
“I guess I might have to walk. It is not far, just one stop,” she said.
Project manager Mikhaylo Holovenko had a candle placed at the ready in his Kyiv apartment as he charged his phones before the planned city outages.
“Russians have invaded our country, there is much anger against Russian leaders and Russian people. But we are ready for outages. We have candles, we have charged power banks. Ukraine is charged to win,” he said.
MINISTER SEES LOWER CONSUMPTION
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said on Wednesday use of electricity should be minimised from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and that temporary blackouts were possible if this was not done.
Zelenskiy, who says air strikes have damaged 30% of Ukraine’s power stations since Oct. 10, urged the public to limit electricity consumption in his nightly speech to the nation on Wednesday.
DTEK, a major electricity supplier in Kyiv, told consumers it would do its best to make sure outages did not last longer than four hours. But the northeast region of Sumy which borders Russia said it would go the entire day – from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. – without water, electric transport or street lighting.
“We see a drop in consumption,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said. “We see a voluntary decrease. But when it is not enough, we are forced to bring in forced shutdowns.”
The central city of Poltava said police would be out on patrol to check businesses switch off their lights. Those that did not would have their power cut off, the city council said.
With a difficult winter looming as the war drags on following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, the state-run weather forecasting centre offered a glimmer of hope for Ukrainians.
It said temperatures may be slightly higher than average this winter and that the probability of long periods of very cold winter was “very low”.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Timothy Heritage)